Obama to meet with leaders over $85B in sequestration cuts

Speaker of the House John Boehner tells Scott Pelley in a "CBS Evening News" interview that a budget deal is now out of his hands.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will meet with top congressional leaders on Friday to discuss the deep, automatic government spending cuts slated to go into effect that day, congressional aides said.

Known as the sequester or sequestration, the cuts amount indiscriminate across-the-board reductions in federal spending totalling $85 billion. Some 750,000 jobs could be lost, and many government services disrupted.

Talks to avert the cuts have been all but non-existent between leaders and the White House. Mostly lawmakers are now focused on ways to rearrange the way the cuts will fall across defense and domestic accounts.

Obama is set to meet with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.

"The meeting Friday is an opportunity for us to visit with the president about how we can all keep our commitment to reduce Washington spending," McConnell said in a statement.

"We can either secure those reductions more intelligently, or we can do it the president's way with across-the board cuts. But one thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to," he said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill immediately questioned Obama's intent.

"If the president is serious about stopping the sequester, why did he schedule a meeting on Tuesday for Friday when the sequester hits at midnight on Thursday?” asked a Republican congressional aide who was not authorized to talk about the private meeting. "Either someone needs to buy the White House a calendar, or this is just a belated farce.  They ought to at least pretend to try."

Transportation secretary Ray LaHood told White House reporters last week that proposed cuts to eht U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would lead to delayed flights, shuttered control towers, and irate travelers.

Reuters and Lisa Mascaro, the Los Angeles Times

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